• Jonathan Bloom writes about why we waste food, why it matters and what we can do about it. This is his blog.

Bi Into This Challenge

With Earth Day fast approaching, the good people at Bi-Rite Market have issued a challenge. A Food Waste Challenge.

Here’s how it works: Leave a comment on the Bi-Rite blog post on the food that you or your community often wastes. Then, the San Fran retailer will identify foods that are often wasted.

Bi-Rite will then strive to help people trim waste of these “target foods” by distributing recipes–in store and hopefully online–for using these foods up. It’s a neat example of a grocer helping its customers curb waste.

So now’s your chance: Tell the gastronomic gurus at Bi-Rite what you have a hard time using up and they’ll provide some handy ideas.

HT: I heard about the challenge from this handy Kitchn post on the topic, which features it’s own useful top 5 list on using up food often discarded.

March 26, 2012 | Posted in Household, Supermarket | Comments closed

UNusual Week

I just spent three days at the Rome headquarters of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, where I met people from all corners of the globe and talked trash (or food waste) with them.

I was at FAO to collaborate with researchers in an ongoing project to create a global food waste footprint. As you might imagine, cataloguing all the ways food waste impacts our environment won’t be easy. There are the familiar impacts like energy use and methane creation, but also some less discussed ones like biodiversity and water impacts.

The main reason for the trip was a series of meetings to hash out how to calculate the actual food waste footprint. The research team met with FAO researchers in various fields in an effort to consider food waste from every angle. I was there partly to help think through these questions, but also as the person who will be involved in future writings for this project.

Some interesting questions arose:

-Should the resources used to create packaging of food ultimately wasted be included?

-Can we capture the small amount of positive end-of-life outcomes for waste like food recovery, composting and anaerobic digestion?

-What do we do when there isn’t available data for a certain crop or country?

-What do we even call this stuff? To be inclusive of all food not consumed, there’s food waste and food loss. Is there a term for both? Can we use them synonymously? Or do we have to use the unwieldy food loss/waste every turn?

In the coming months, we’ll create answers for these questions and work toward a finished product so that one of these days policy makers, policy wonks, journalists and all in between will be able to say: Food waste’s impact is THIS big!

March 23, 2012 | Posted in Energy, Environment, Personal | Comments closed

Public Service Announcement

Just a quick reminder, folks: You can trim the mold off cheese! I highly recommend it, especially for a variety as delicious as Dill Havarti.


After. (Mmm...cheese)

March 19, 2012 | Posted in Food Safety, Household, Personal | Comments closed

Friday Buffet

While the UK leads the way in waste reduction, they lag in food recovery. A certain Member of Parliament is out to change that. Kerry McCarthy hopes to introduce legislation requiring supermarkets to donate surplus food, rewarding other businesses for donating food and establishing a US-style Good Samaritan Act.

And it being 2012, here’s the text of McCarthy’s speech to Parliament on her blog.

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I found this piece pretty comprehensive: Clean Your Plate, Save the Planet.

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Bread is the most commonly wasted food in Britain, according to the BBC. What’s America’s most wasted food? This study didn’t look at bread, but of veggies, fruit and meat, mustard greens are the most squandered supermarket food, with a scandalous 66 percent wasted. Even worse news–veal is the most wasted meat. Sad.

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Finally, I’ll be headed to Rome next week to do some consulting work with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. I’ll try to keep up a regular post schedule, but no promises…

March 16, 2012 | Posted in Friday Buffet, International, Personal, Supermarket | Comments closed

You’ve Been Slimed!

I’ve got slime on the mind. Not that old Nickelodeon show slime or the green ectoplasm stuff from Ghostbusters, but pink slime.

The meat industry, in their zeal to be as efficient as possible, are now selling Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings, or BLBT, in supermarkets as ground beef. Apparently, this Play-Doh-like substance is in 70% of conventional ground beef.

However, the substance, critics said, is more like gelatin than meat, and before Beef Products Inc. found a way to use it by disinfecting the trimmings with ammonia it was sold only to dog food or cooking oil suppliers.

Now, I’m all for finding uses for everything. But, as my new pal Will Harris of White Oak Pastures told me, feeding this byproduct to people may be too high a use for it. Perhaps only dog food should be “slimed.” At the very least, I’d say labeling is a solid idea.

It certainly doesn’t put me in the mood to make burgers. And, it also gives new meaning to that old question: Where’s the beef?

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Congrats to last week’s book giveaway winner, Megan!

March 13, 2012 | Posted in General | Comments closed

Friday Buffet

Don’t forget to enter the drawing for the new book White Bread by commenting here on your favorite use for stale bread.

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Good on ya, mate! Some green-minded Kiwis are pushing their city to ban food waste from the waste stream.

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Denver has a new composting facility. Always a good thing.

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Seriously? A culinary use for banana skins?! Well done, Shane.

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Saturday morning, I’ll be in Santa Barbara, speaking at Edible Institute. See you there?

March 9, 2012 | Posted in Composting, Personal, Restaurant, Waste Stream | Comments closed

Guest Post: In Defense of Stale Bread

Aaron Bobrow-Strain is the author of White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf (Beacon Press, 2012). His writings have also appeared in Gastronomica and The Believer. Here is his impassioned ode to stale bread:

In July 1913, The New York Times announced a Dutch invention—“exceedingly complex and scientific”—that would keep bread fresh “for an indefinite period.” Essentially a glorified ice chest, this was one of many early twentieth-century innovations that promised to banish stale bread forever.

By 1913, industry had begun to tame the unruly, biological nature of dough to the relentless pace of assembly line production. Consumers leaned breathlessly toward a future of bountiful cheap food, leisure, and social harmony made possible by industrial bread. Each slice of modern bread was an edible utopia.

Only one unacceptable reminder of bread’s natural life remained—one tiny realm of imperfection unconquered by science: even the most modern bread drifted inexorably toward entropy.

One hundred years later, the application of chemistry and engineering to bread baking has still not triumphed over staleness. Contrary to popular urban myth, even Wonder Bread decays. And I, for one, am glad.

What would we do without stale bread? How would we make the best French toast, top soups and salads with croutons, thicken sauces, or feed the pigeons?

I just wrote a book about America’s complicated love-hate relationship with industrial food, told through the story of our most iconic industrial food: super-soft sliced white bread. I’m interested in why past efforts to change Americans’ industrial diet have succeeded and failed (mostly failed), and what present-day food reformers can do better. Meanwhile, we’re going to have a lot of stale bread sitting around. Don’t just throw it out.

Here are two of my favorite uses for stale bread, drawn from the Mediterranean world, where salvaging old loaves is an art:

For slightly stale European artisan bread, make a Spanish bocadillo. Drizzle olive oil over two slices, of bread grill them in a hot pan, and then rub the crispy exterior with raw garlic. Sprinkle on a little salt and lemon juice. Then use the grilled bread as the base for a Spanish sandwich. My favorite contains garlicky braised kale, good sheep cheese, and a fried egg.

For really stale European artisan bread, try Italian ribollita. This is a use-up-what-you-have-around stew from Tuscany. Its vegetable ingredients vary depending on what you find at the bottom of your refrigerator—but it always includes cannellini beans and hunks of stale bread. “Ribollita” means “re-boiled” and refers to the process of softening stale bread in the stew. For best results, add the bread to the stew early enough to allow it to soak up lots of rich liquid, but late enough that it doesn’t dissolve completely. Recipes for ribollita can be found in many places. I adapted mine a long time ago from The Rose Pistola Cookbook.

P.S. Around the turn of the last century both Albert Edward Prince of Wales and John D. Rockefeller swore that a diet of stale bread could cure dyspepsia. Use your stale bread and you may never need to chew another Tums!

Editor’s Note: For a chance to win a copy of White Bread, comment below about your preferred use for stale bread. Entries taken until Friday at 5pm.

March 8, 2012 | Posted in Guest Posts, Household | Comments closed

Baltimore Bound

Today, I’m headed to Baltimore to give a talk at the Enoch Pratt Free Library (7pm). I’m excited for the chance to spread the word on food waste. If you find yourself near Charm City and looking to hear all about it, come on down!

Thanks to the United Way of Central Maryland, Wesleyan University and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future for making tonight’s event possible. I will try my best to avoid references to The Wire.

March 5, 2012 | Posted in Personal | Comments closed

On (Not) Wasting Meat

This piece of mine ran yesterday on Grist. You could call it preachy, but, hey, I think it’s warranted. Let me know what you think.

This is not about the guilt-ridden question: Should I eat meat? That personal dilemma has already been debated thoroughly on Grist and elsewhere. Instead, here’s another dose of angst for us meat eaters, just in case we needed one:  If we’re going to condone the killing of animals, the least we can do is eat all of the resulting meat.

You’re welcome.

When I do readings for my book, American Wasteland, I begin by talking about the ethical shortcomings of wasting food. Primarily, there’s the idea that someone would have loved to eat the foods that we squander. Wasting food devalues the suffering of millions in America and a billion worldwide who don’t get enough to eat. These days, 15 percent of Americans[PDF] are food insecure, or struggle to find enough to eat. And food banks and hungry people have a hard time getting sufficient protein, especially the kind not found inside a tin can or a cylinder of casing.

Wasting meat raises the stakes to create an ethical double whammy. Squandering animal protein — and some would include offal here — debases our quotidian killing of animals. As Paul Root Wolpe, director of the Emory Center for Ethics, told me: “To treat food cavalierly leads to a lack of appreciation of the importance of food, of the fact that some go without it, of the suffering of animals that the carnivores among us are willing to tolerate to eat our food.”

Ideally, the growing number of hungry people would motivate us to treasure our edibles — meat especially — at all stages of the food chain. But, contrary to what we claim, we do not. Globally, at least one-third of all food isn’t consumed [PDF]. Domestically, that figure jumps to about 40 percent. And zooming in further, we squander about 25 percent of the food we bring into our homes.* It seems that in the cold calculus of everyday life, ethics aren’t all that motivating. Read More »

March 2, 2012 | Posted in Farm, Household | Comments closed

Agribusiness Thinking About Waste?

It’s encouraging to see anyone in agriculture talking about reducing waste. It’s especially so when they’re part of Big Ag. For example, a speaker at the Bayer CropScience Ag Issues Forum raising the flag against waste.

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Also, yesterday and today I’ve been at the Shared Tables Symposium at UNC and Duke. I’ve been heartened to hear several speakers, including the great food writer Tom Philpott, noting the importance of reducing waste throughout the food chain.

Based on what I’m seeing and hearing, I do think that efficiency will become a major buzzword in the years ahead as we stare down the prospect of feeding the estimated 9 billion global citizens of 2050.

February 29, 2012 | Posted in Farm | Comments closed
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